Ten years of parenting have instilled in me a particular superstition. I’m sure I’m not the only parent who has it. You never, ever talk about the baby sleeping through the night, because if you do they’ll stop. Am I right?
Likewise, you never, ever even breathe aloud that your strong-willed child has been really good lately, because the moment you do, some unknown cosmic force in the universe will exert an irresistible pull upon him, and it’s all downhill from there.
Which is exactly what happened last week, except I only got as far as admitting it in my head, and it was still enough to wreak havoc on my kid.
Wait. Did I say last week? It bridged the weekend and reached epic proportions on Monday.
These situations present quite a conundrum. Directing a strong will toward its best self requires a very firm hand, so I want to affirm him when he’s behaving appropriately, “lest they lose heart,” as Colossians says. But affirming his good behavior, by definition, brings that cosmic superstition into play.
Thus it was that yesterday morning Nicholas padded into my room after his alarm went off–ten minutes early. I was stretched out across my bed in the dark, wrestling with a difficult scene revision. I really didn’t want to give up those ten minutes, but I also knew this chubby little boy in the Darth Vader PJs was feeling insecure after a rough evening. I needed to minister to that emotion, and I needed to do it now, while the day was still newborn, with no mistakes in it (thank you, Anne Shirley).
So I put my laptop to sleep and drew him in for cuddles and kisses on sleep-warmed cheeks. And we talked about the last few days. We talked about things that were other people’s fault, but that he didn’t handle well. We talked about habits he has that push potential friends away, as well as driving his siblings crazy.
And in that moment, he seemed to understand.
The problem is, there seems to be a communication line between his reason and his feelings that gets blocked whenever a stressful situation arises. We’ve had these conversations over and over with him, and he continues to do the same thing the next time. I often despair of him ever learning, and chafe at having to repeat the same lesson again, and again, and again, and again. But what other option do I have? I can’t give up.
I see in my children the potential for good, and I take great joy in their triumphs and pride in their gifts. Yet I also see their weaknesses and flaws–weaknesses and flaws that I know all too well, because they are my pitfalls, too. I’ve been down the road, and I can see things my children can’t. They don’t understand what land mines they’re embedding in their life’s pathways–the relationships that will be damaged, the heartache they will suffer, if they don’t learn to handle those flaws first. I want so much to spare them the pain I went through for those same faults. Of course, I know the pain itself is the best teacher, but it’s so hard to watch them suffer when I know the solution!
It gives me an insight into God as a parent. The parallel isn’t perfect; God, by definition, has no flaws to pass on. But he does have the solutions to the struggles I face, and that is a comfort as I barrel through the seemingly impenetrable forest that is life.
Which is not to say that I’m going to handle things any better than I ever have. After all, God doesn’t come down in pajamas and cuddle me before the day begins, speaking audible words in my ear. The life of faith is now and will always be the same as it has always been: a constant seeking for greater enlightenment and a constant examination of conscience. And of course, a constant analysis of all the ways in which I failed.
And yet this tiny sliver of insight, which I’ve often heard but never really understood at a visceral level, opens a piece of my mind. And that can only be a good thing.